Who You Are

When Deb Caletti decided it was time to finally pursue her dream of becoming a writer, she gave herself the best piece of advice by which anyone could not only write but live.  She posted a quote by Nietzsche on the wall she faced while she wrote. The quote read: “Become who you are.” Not, “You are a great writer” or, “You can have anything you want” or, “You will sell a million books,” but, “Become who you are.” I love this directive for its simplicity. How does one sell a million books or even become a great writer, for that matter? Not only isn’t there a formula or a technique, but there is no emotional pull toward these bare objectives. Millions of books or great writerdom are placeholders, they are like paintings of the future we look at when we want to feel a certain way.

The clue, as always, is never what the painting looks like but the feeling it inspires. And this is why I love the Nietzsche quote so much. When I think of it, my mind’s eye is pulled from the future where all the phantoms reside, all those unformed possibilities I try in the occasional insomniac bed to arrange as I believe my happiness requires. As if any person, any circumstance, any book or letter has access to my soul without my first granting it.

Only good can ever come of directing my attention inward. The person I am resides there, quite fully formed. Now I am the artist again. Now I see and hear that model self, and like an actor taking a role, like a writer finding his characters, I render as faithfully as I can what reveals itself to me there in my words and actions. We are all artists in this way. The physical world is just a billion-fold reflection of the inner life, a life without shape or sound, a thing of pure intention, as complete within itself as an oak tree. It is the role you were born to play, the book you were meant to write.

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